With every inch of room in your truck being used for something, wouldn’t it be nice to free up some space in the back or on top of the roof-rack.

When you go away for a week with the missus and kids, you need to pack those extra things like the bigger fridge and the solar panels and all the kids’ stuff. So wouldn’t it be nice to just have one more thing mounted to the roof and out of the way, your solar panel is one such item that can be bulky and a pain to carry around.

To get around that we have mounted one on some drawer slides and tucked it up under the roof rack of one of the boy’s trucks. With this in mind everyone likes things to be easy to set up and this won’t be any different, all you have to do is slide it out and plug it in and you will be charging your batteries within a minute of setting up camp.

In this issue we are going to show you five steps to mount your solar panel and have it so it slides out, connected to the batteries before your second sip of your drink.

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Like all good DIYs there has to be a starting point and here it is. Work out the room you have on the underside of the roof rack between the brackets and the roof. Then order some runners to suit your solar panel. We are using a 65w solar panel which is 800mm long which means we have to run the panel lengthwise under the rack as it is too wide to run across the rack. We then only have about 65mm between the roof and the rack so we need to remember to keep it tight against the rack when we make our brackets, to prevent any unnecessary damage to the panel or roof it in the long run.

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]You will need a solar panel that’ fit in the space under your roof rack. The good news is, there are so many different shapes and sizes these days that finding one is easier than you think. We got our 65W regulated panel from Aussie Batteries and Solar, a set of non-locking drawer slides, some 40mmx40mm aluminium angle to make our brackets, a spring loaded slide lock, six U-bolts to mount the brackets to the rack, some 8-10mm wire, bolts, nuts, washers and two sets of mini Anderson plugs.

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Get your angle and cut lengths to suit the slides (ours are 800mm long so that we will make the angle about 50mm longer to allow for any needed adjustments or mounting issues). Open the slides and sit them on the outside edge of the angle and mark the mounting holes. Drill both pieces of angle and mount the slides using the screws and nuts. Once you have mounted the slides to the angle, sit the pieces of angle upside-down and slide out the rails. Using a piece of cardboard or an old shirt sit the panel upside down, then measure and mark the mounting holes for the panel to mount to the rail. Secure with your screws and nuts again and then flip it back over and call your mates.

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]This is where you will have to get a mate to help you, lift the panel up and slide it under the rack. We had to lift the roof rack up on the brackets as the 80 Series has the raised section in the centre of the roof and the panel was just fouling. Position it so the front edge is in line with the front of the rack and hold it in position with some vice grips or clamps. Sit your U-bolts over the cross bars on top of the flat of the angle and mark it ready to drill your holes. Once you’ve got your mounting holes, fit the U-bolts and tighten them so the angle buttons up tight against the bottom of the rack.

Once that is done get your slide lock and position it at the front of the right hand rail, mark the rail/angle and drill a hole so the slide lock holds the rail closed. This is to allow for one handed release and opening of the panel. If you don’t want to drill more holes in your truck to wire the panel in permanently, you can always make up your quick connect wiring loom.

Get yourself two sets of mini Anderson plugs (we have gone one red and one grey) and about 5m of 8mm twin-core battery cable. Connect the wires from the panel to the one side of the grey Anderson plugs, and the other side to one end of your new wiring loom. Next, connect one side of the red plug to the other end of the wiring loom, then make up a short piece of battery cabling from the auxiliary battery positive and negative terminals to the other side of your red Anderson plug. With this setup once you’re done charging, the plug and play wiring loom you’ve just made up can be easily disconnected, rolled up and stored in the drawers for safe keeping.

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